Neurobiological mechanisms for impulsive-aggression: the role of MAOA

Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2014:17:297-313. doi: 10.1007/7854_2013_272.


Aggression may be present across a large part of the spectrum of psychopathology, and underlies costly criminal antisocial behaviors. Human aggression is a complex and underspecified construct, confounding scientific discovery. Nevertheless, some biologically tractable subtypes are apparent, and one in particular-impulsive (reactive) aggression-appears to account for many facets of aggression-related dysfunction in psychiatric illness. Impulsive-aggression is significantly heritable, suggesting genetic transmission. However, the specific neurobiological mechanisms that mediate genetic risk for impulsive-aggression remain unclear. Here, we review extant data on the genetics and neurobiology of individual differences in impulsive-aggression, with particular attention to the role of genetic variation in Monoamine Oxidase A (MAOA) and its impact on serotonergic signaling within corticolimbic circuitry.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aggression*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / genetics*
  • Monoamine Oxidase / genetics*
  • Monoamine Oxidase / metabolism
  • Neurobiology*


  • Monoamine Oxidase